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Facilitating researcher mobility

One of the recurrent themes at the Vitae Researcher Development Conference 2010 was how to better facilitate the movement of researchers throughout the European Union. Representing the British Council, Dr Claire McNulty’s conference workshop, Research as an International Career, broadened the discussion to how to encourage and make easier the transition for scientists moving between continents, as well as between countries that are geographically, but not politically European nations.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Though its science division is small, it has very important remits, including to enhance the standing of science in society, and to create and foster links between researchers in the UK and around the world. Facilitating researcher mobility, therefore, is an area that they take very seriously. The inherently global nature of science and the common ground researchers already share provide a unique opportunity for connecting people worldwide. They are also now working
on an internationalising higher education programme, based on global market intelligence, policy dialogues, and partnerships. The focus of this new initiative will be on knowledge transfer and exchange.

In a European context, though, one of the issues to be tackled is that the UK has had the lion’s share of overseas talent, with close to half of all academic staff already coming from abroad, and three times as many Marie Curie fellowships than other European nations. But while we have been very successful in bringing researchers in, the exchange has not been equal. The percentage of UK scientists going the other way, to work in labs across Europe, is nearly four times less than that of European scientists going to the UK.

To encourage wider mobility, one British Council/European Commission initiative has been Euraxess. The services on the Euraxess website provide practical information all in one place, and they are all free – they include a job section, which provides a unique platform for universities and institutions to advertise at no cost. There is also a services section, detailing a network of more than two hundred centres in 35 European countries, set up to assist with the
practical issues of relocating – like accommodation, childcare, work permits and language lessons. Euraxess also provides links for European researchers working abroad, so that they can stay linked with each other and with Europe. This initiative is currently also being run in the US and Japan, with China in the pipeline.

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Aarathi Prasad

Aarathi is an ex-research scientist with a cancer genetics background. After leaving the lab bench she did television research, pharmaceutical marketing, parliamentary research, and defended science with the charity Sense About Science. She is now a freelance science journalist, author and broadcaster who lives between London and Bangalore.
Aarathi Prasad

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